As a goggle eyed robot landed on Mars in a flurry of media excitement, celebrity came to Bobak Ferdowsi who was glimpsed in the mission control room with a Mohawk haircut. In 24 hours his twitter followers increased in numbers from a couple of hundred to over 20 000. NASA had become cool!
What do you have to do to be cool? Richard Feynman played the Bongo drums. Niels Bohr played football for Copenhagen. Edwin Hubble was a heavyweight boxer. Tycho Brahe had a silver prosthetic nose.
Nobel prize winner, Gell-man, named the fundamental particles of matter after a nonsense poem in Jame’s Joyce’s Finnegin’s Wake which begins, “Three quarks for Muster Mark”. Gell-man was impressed because he was speculating that the fundament particles came in three varieties so he called them quarks, though he pronounced them “Kworks” – which is pretty cool. He later revised his theory to include six “kworks”.
Edward Teller, whose evil genius fathered the Hydrogen Bomb, was satirized by Peter Sellers in Dr Strangelove, which makes him cool by association.
In contrast, Einstein is cool because he stood up to the madness of Teller and his deranged friends and got listed in Life Magazine as one of America’s fifty most dangerous “dupes and fellow travellers”, which makes Life Magazine distinctly un-cool.
Einstein also renounced his German citizenship twice: once as a kid of sixteen because he preferred Swiss democracy to German authoritarianism; and then, after retaking his citizenship to become a professor in Berlin, he ditched it again in protest at Hitler’s dictatorship – which is super Kool!
Tom Lehrer was a mathematics professor at Harvard who wrote and performed cool songs, such as this one about Wernher von Braun, a Nazi who was quickly rehabilitated by the US to father their rocket programme:
Gather round while I sing you of Wernher von Braun. A man whose allegiance is ruled by expedience. Call him a Nazi, he won’t even frown. “Ha Nazi schmazi”, says Wernher von Braun, “once the rockets are up, who care where they come down? That’s not my department”, says Wernher von Braun.
Nothing of which has anything to do with stars.